When people say e-bike, they usually mean a Pedelec – or an S-Pedelec.

The technical and legal differences between e-bike, Pedelec and S-Pedelec
November 29, 2019

 

The technical and legal differences between e-bike, Pedelec and S-Pedelec.

Anyone looking for an e-bike at a specialist bicycle dealer is usually in search of a Pedelec or S-Pedelec. The terms are often incorrectly used synonymously, and this can frequently lead to confusion. Caution must also be exercised with regard to the legal requirements as these differ from country to country.

The difference: e-bike, Pedelec and S-Pedelec.

The difference between e-bikes and Pedelecs or S-Pedelecs is pretty easy to explain. E-bikes are driven without pedal support or with a gas handle. The word Pedelec (an abbreviation of pedal electric cycle) was created in 1999 to differentiate between bicycles with automatic pedal support and those with a drive powered by a gas handle – meaning e-bikes. The terms e-bike and electric bicycle are still incorrectly used as synonyms for Pedelecs, however.

In general, pedelecs and S-pedelecs can be differentiated as follows in Europe/Switzerland (does not count for USA and Canada):

Pedelecs: a brief portrait.

  • They have an electric motor with max. 250 watts.
  • Pedelecs support the rider when pedaling up to 25 kph.
  • Push assistance without pedaling is 6 kph.
  • In legal terms, they have the same legal footing as bicycles. The rider is not required to possess a license or insurance or wear a helmet and the Pedelec has no license plate.
  • Cycle paths may or must be used – depending on the national or local regulations.
  • Child seats and trailers are allowed (see table).
  • Age limit: In Switzerland, a Pedelec rider must be at least 14 years of age; in the EU there is no age limit.

The S-Pedelec, the faster category.

  • S-Pedelecs are classified as mopeds in the EU (cat. L1e-B) and thus require insurance and a license plate.
  • The maximum motor output is 4,000 watts (CH: max. 1,000 watts) and the pedal support works up to 45 kph.
  • Push assistance without pedaling is 6 kph.
  • In Switzerland, both Pedelecs and S-Pedelecs must use cycle paths (where available).
  • There are different regulations, sometimes even at the local level, in EU countries. There are currently certain political initiatives that would open up the use of bicycle lanes for S-Pedelecs as well.
  • A license plate with a valid vignette is required within Switzerland.
  • Child seats and trailers are prohibited in the EU. Mounting child seats and trailers is permitted in Switzerland (see table).

The legal regulations are clearly defined in Switzerland and the EU. These are not implemented consistently within the EU, however, and they may be handled differently at the local level. To avoid any misunderstandings, riders are recommended always to take advice from their local specialist dealer – for enjoyable and safe riding.

For more information, please have a look at our table of the technical and legal differences between Pedelecs and S-Pedelecs in Switzerland and the EU.

All differences at a glance.

Motor assistance without pedaling
No, only starting assistance up to max. 6 kph

Motor output
Max. 250 watts

Motor assistance
Up to max. 25 kph

Push assistance (motor assistance without pedaling)
Up to max 6 kph

Child seat/trailer
Child seat up to max. 17kg or 7 years Trailer allowed (max. 2 children)

Bicycle lane
Can/must be used

Insurance/license plate required
No

Wearing of a helmet
No

Driver’s license required
No

Age limit
No age limit

Motor assistance without pedaling
No, only starting assistance up to max. 6 kph

Motor output
Max. 4 kilowatts

Motor assistance
Up to max 45 kph

Push assistance (motor assistance without pedaling)
Up to max 6 kph

Child seat/trailer
Trailer and child seat prohibited

Bicycle lane
Different regulations apply depending on the EU country.*

Insurance/license plate required
Yes (different regulations apply depending on the EU country)

Wearing of a helmet
Yes (suitable protective helmet, different regulations apply depending on the EU country)

Driver’s license required
At least class AM

Age limit
From 16 years

*The regulations are currently being modified; a new version will be released.

Motor assistance without pedaling
No, only starting assistance up to max. 6 kph

Motor output
Max. 250 watts

Motor assistance
Up to max. 25 kph

Push assistance (motor assistance without pedaling)
Up to max 6 kph

Child seat/trailer
Child seat up to max. 17 kg Trailer allowed (max. 2 children)

Bicycle lane
Must be used

Insurance/license plate required
No

Wearing of a helmet
No

Driver’s license required
14 – 16 years driver’s license M, otherwise free

Age limit
From 14 years

Motor assistance without pedaling
No, only starting assistance up to max. 6 kph

Motor output
Max. 1 kilowatts

Motor assistance
Up to max 45 kph

Push assistance (motor assistance without pedaling)
Up to max 6 kph

Child seat/trailer
Child seat up to max. 17 kg Trailer allowed (max. 2 children)

Bicycle lane
Must be used (where available)

Insurance/license plate required
Yes, yellow license plate and vignette

Wearing of a helmet
Bicycle helmet in accordance with the standard EN 1078

Driver’s license required
14 – 16 years driver’s license M, otherwise free

Age limit
From 14 years

All differences at a glance.